Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge encompasses a remote wetland in northern Costa Rica, not far from the Nicaraguan border. While situated on the Caribbean slope, it also receives some Pacific slope influences that contribute to its high degree of ecological biodiversity. Caño Negro is internationally recognized as a protected wetlands under the United Nations Ramsar convention and is widely considered one of the most important wetland sites in the world. It ranks among the top birding sites in Central America, with well over 400 resident and migratory bird species having been recorded here, including many not easily seen elsewhere in Costa Rica.
I observed more than 200 bird species over the course of a four-day visit to the refuge, two of which I spent birding the wetlands by boat with my friend and local expert birding guide “Chambita” Romero. Some of the wetland birding highlights included Northern Shoveler, Gray-breasted Crake, Sungrebe, Limpkin, Collared Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, Wilson’s Snipe, Stilt Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Jabiru, Roseate Spoonbill, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Glossy Ibis, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, and Nicaraguan Grackle!
The refuge is also home to some excellent quality lowland rainforest. Additional highlights included Blue Ground-Dove, Short-tailed Nighthawk, Lesser Nighthawk, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Gray-headed Kite, Gray Hawk, Pied Puffbird, Great Antshrike, Bare-crowned Antbird, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, White-winged Becard, Acadian Flycatcher, White-ringed Flycatcher, Philadelphia Vireo, Spot-breasted Wren, Song Wren, Orange-billed Sparrow, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Giant Cowbird, Kentucky Warbler, and Hooded Warbler.
“Chambita” Tours Caño Negro – highly recommended bird guide
Posada Rural Oasis is a small hotel run by a family that clearly loves nature. While there are some farm animals, much of the property is an unofficial reserve (a nature “oasis”) with over 3 km. of trails that run through pastures and second growth forest. This is by far my preferred place to stay in Caño Negro. The rooms are clean, comfortable and affordable. There is a shared kitchenette, complete with a coffee maker (and coffee), so you can make your own coffee at any hour — an important perk for birders!
And you don’t have to go far to find birds. Spot-breasted Wren, which in Costa Rica can only be found in this area, is easily located near the property entrance. Pacific Screech-Owl is a regular night visitor to the garden. Little Tinamou, Scaled Pigeon, Gray-headed Dove, Black-crowned Antshrike, Bare-crowned Antbird, Northern Bentbill, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Snowy Cotinga, and Canebrake Wren are just a few of the species I located on or nearby the property.